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Former Walker Legal Counsel Brian Hagedorn Announces State Supreme Court Campaign

State Appeals Court Judge Enters Race For Seat Being Vacated By Shirley Abrahamson

Wisconsin Supreme Court
Shamane Mills/WPR

Wisconsin appeals court judge and former Gov. Scott Walker legal advisor Brian Hagedorn has launched a campaign for state Supreme Court.

Hagedorn announced Thursday he would join the race to fill the court seat being vacated by Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who announced in May she wouldn’t see another 10-year term on the court.

Hagedorn is a judge on the District 2 Court of Appeals, which Walker appointed him to in 2015. He was re-elected in 2017.

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Hagedorn previously served as the chief legal counsel to Walker from 2011 to 2015 and clerked for former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman from 2009 to 2010.

Despite his ties with a GOP governor and conservative-backed justice, Hagedorn said he doesn’t want to be identified as a conservative candidate.

“Nobody should take that to mean that I view my job as a conservative Republican job or as a pro- or anti-governor job,” he said. “It’s a very different role to have a client and advocate for them and serve them than it is to read the law and call it like you see it.”

However, Hagedorn has been endorsed by two of the court’s conservative-backed justices, Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly, as well as Gableman. He also received a public statement of support Thursday from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a group known for backing conservative candidates and causes.

Hagedorn said he’ll bring a “common sense” judicial philosophy to the court.

I believe the role of a judge is to say what the law is, and not what they think the law should be,” he said.

If elected, he said he would work to enforce constitutional rights “as they are written,” which he said some judges don’t do for political reasons.

“You see that sort of conversation on the right to bear arms and other sorts of things,” he said. “(Those rights are) in the Constitution — if the people don’t like them, they can change them, but it’s my job to enforce the words that are there.”

Hagedorn joins fellow appellate court judge Lisa Neubauer in the race. Neubauer announced her candidacy in July. She was appointed to the bench by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and is the mother of Democratic state Rep. Greta Neubauer of Racine.

Hagedorn said he differs from Neubauer in that he doesn’t look to fill the mold of Abrahamson, who he said infused too much politics into her rulings.

“I think there’s no place for that on the Supreme Court,” he said.

Conservatives currently have a 4-3 majority on the court. The election for the seat held by Abrahamson could tip that to 5-2, if a conservative-backed candidate prevails.

The Supreme Court election will be held in April.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with original reporting from WPR at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug.16, 2018.

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